Bihar has a rich history of out-migration from the state which goes back to as early as the 19th Century. However, in the last few decades, migration for work has increased manifold. The sheer scale of out-migration in contemporary Bihar is astounding. At any given point of time, as many almost one-half of the total working men are absent from the state, working elsewhere in urban and rural centres in the country and abroad. Migration from the state is essentially male and is embedded in the lives and life choices of the people. It is not just a livelihood strategy, but a way of life in rural Bihar. While there is considerable research that studies the nature and pattern of migration from Bihar, profile of migrant workers, migration destination and other such correlates of a migrant’s life outside the village, there is sparse literature on the impact of this migration on people, especially women who are left behind in the village. Many research questions remain unanswered. How are institutions such as caste and patriarchy in the village affected by male migration? How does male migration influence women’s well being and agency? Does migration have an effect on women’s mobility? Does it empower or disempower women left behind? What role does technology such as mobile phones play in communicating and staying in touch with migrant family members? What impact does this have on the women left behind in villages? This paper engages with the questions raised above and it aims to study and analyse the impact of male migration on women who are left behind in rural Bihar. It explores the various contours of continuity and change in women’s lives as a ramification of male migration. It specifically looks at the impact of migration on women’s work, both paid and unpaid; on their decision making in the household; on their mobility; on their involvement in managing money and access to credit. This empirical work is based on a survey of groups of women in 12 selected villages across 6 districts of north and south Bihar. A total of 88 groups of women across various castes (Upper castes, Other Backward Castes I & II, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) and socio-religious (Hindu, Upper Muslim, Lower Muslim) groups were surveyed. The paper is a part of a larger study, ‘Status of Women in Bihar: Exploring Transformation in Work and Gender Relations’ undertaken by the Institute for Human Development (IHD) and supported by the International Labour Organization to ascertain broad insights into the status of women in rural Bihar with a view to examine any signs of transformation in work and gender relations.

EADI - European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes
ISS Staff Group 0
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Datta, A. (2011). Glimpses of women’s lives in rural Bihar: impact of male migration. ISS Staff Group 0. Retrieved from